Maryland Terps: Which Rookie Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?
Judging by each 2012 Maryland recruit's first three games donning a Terps uniform, it appears as if the recruiting gurus got it backwards.
Three games is quite a small sample size, but unranked freshman Seth Allen looks the most game-ready so far, while top-30 center Shaquille Cleare has looked utterly confused at times.
While evaluating the performance of each freshman so far, it was important to not only account for their current production, but also the aspects of each individual's game that looks promising for the future, or their potential.
Between Allen, Cleare, Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell, it wasn't easy to select who I believe will be the most impactful freshmen, but my choice may be a surprise.
As the the lowest-ranked recruit from Maryland's 2012 class, Seth Allen is far exceeding expectations during this young season.
The 6'1'' combo guard from Virginia has really been using his supreme athleticism to his advantage.
Through three outings, Allen is averaging 10.3 points per game, which is tied for the second most on the team.
Against LIU-Brooklyn, he dropped a team-high 19 points, draining five-of-six threes in the 17-point victory.
While occasionally out of control, Allen's quickness and agility provide a much-needed change of pace from starting point guard Pe'Shon Howard.
While Howard is an intelligent game manager, knee injuries have impaired his athletic ability and overall mobility.
There's no doubt Allen will receive major minutes this season, as long as he doesn't become overconfident and attempt too many shots.
A poor showing against Kentucky led to a pessimistic view of his prospects for this season, but Shaquille Cleare recovered nicely against Morehead State and LIU-Brooklyn.
In just 12 minutes per game, the 6'9'' Cleare is averaging six points a night while shooting 75 percent from the floor.
He's solidified himself as an intimidating post presence, swatting multiple shots into the stands so far.
He's fairly new to game, which will explain occasional mishaps as the season progresses.
High-level production from Cleare will be especially imperative if/when star center Alex Len is sidelined with foul trouble.
Look for Cleare to perform well in spurts as he adjusts to a new pace of basketball.
The physical traits are all present, but it will take time until the development translates to on-court success.
Typically when 6'9'' basketball players are tremendous outside shooters, they tend to be less impressive from an athletic standpoint because their services are more stationary rather than active.
That's not the case with Jake Layman.
Layman is a superb athlete, who has already shown is eye-popping leaping ability while catching a Pe'Shon Howard-thrown alley-oop against LIU-Brooklyn.
His ability to effectively play from the outside and above the rim makes his skillset unique.
So far, most of Layman's 4.7 points per game have been from outside shooting. Against Morehead State, Layman hit one three pointer and two long two pointers en route to a seven point performance.
Layman provides energy and outside shooting similar to that of Maryland's ineligible transfer Evan Smotrycz, who last played at Michigan.
For now, the spotlight is Layman's, but it will be interesting to see how the two coexist once Smotrycz is eligible next season.
Against Kentucky, Charles Mitchell did something that no Maryland player has ever done. Not Len Elmore, nor Buck Williams. Not even Len Bias.
Mitchell grabbed ten rebounds in his Terrapin debut, a Maryland first.
More impressively, he accomplished that feat against Kentucky's freshmen twin towers of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. And even more impressively, Mitchell is a generous 6'8''.
Physical limitations haven't halted the Georgia native from being a top-notch rebounder. His heart and desire to grab every loose ball is admirable, and makes him a fan-favorite. He is averaging 7.7 rebounds per game.
Despite not being a top-100 recruit, Mitchell has cemented his spot as one of the top rebounders of his class.
Unfortunately, he hasn't shown any signs of offensive effectiveness and won't be a complete player until he rounds out that aspect of his game.
Verdict: Shaquille Cleare
Undoubtedly, Allen has been the most impressive and productive freshman so far. But that isn't who I think will have the biggest impact.
Maryland's highest ranked recruit coming out of high school, the top-30 Bahamian Shaquille Ceare will be hugely important in determining whether Maryland is successful or not. Alex Len can't be dominant every single game, and Cleare will need to pick up the slack.
He's a bulldozer in the paint, a monster on the glass and has even blocked a few shots so far. His intimidating interior presence is why Cleare will have the biggest impact out of Maryland's freshmen.